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Ben Riensche

Ben ReinscheAverage Savings of $50/Ton

Ben Riensche operates Blue Diamond Farms, a large, sixth-generation corn, soybean, and wheat operation in northeast Iowa. With an MBA and a “Top Producer” honor from Farm Journal, you’d expect Ben to run a tight ship—and he does. Among his cutting-edge management practices, he applies variable-rate fertilizer based on soil samples, and buys bulk fertilizer directly from ADM.

“Urea pellets have become a lot more cost-effective for us as a nitrogen source,” says Ben of the factors that drove his new habits. “All of a sudden, urea is a product I can handle in my hopper-bottom trucks. I don’t have to have tanks and specialized safety equipment.”

That taste of self-sufficiency made Ben think about price, too. Out of convenience during fast growth, he’d simply hired a retailer to supply and spread his nutrients. But costs were continually going up, markups seemed high, and he suspected there was more to costs than he was hearing.

“I noticed my provider always told us the same story: ‘You better buy now because the price is going to go up.’ And I thought, ‘Grain markets go up and down; energy markets go up and down; interest rates go up and down. How come your story is, ‘you better buy real quick, because you’re looking at the last best chance?’”

So two years ago, Ben put up storage—“nothing fancy, just a hoop building with lighting so we could off-load day or night”—and ventured into forward pricing with ADM Farm Direct Fertilizer. Since then, he’s booked his potash, urea, and mono-ammonium phosphate (MAP) needs with ADM, and has it trucked to Blue Diamond Farm directly from ADM’s terminal in Camanche, Iowa.

The change has paid off. According to Chris Meyer, Ben’s ADM fertilizer representative, one urea order they booked together was $100 under wholesale prices. But even the average savings are serious.

“We’ve often knocked $50 or $60 a ton off the price,” says Ben. “That’s what I would categorize as my sum total savings—probably $50 a ton, sometimes because of the direct feature, sometimes because of forward contracting.”

Although ADM provides an Offer Management app to help farmers check prices, Ben says he “watches the market while he’s in the market,” layering in purchases a portion at a time as price levels stay favorable.

Ben also likes having “control of the process” with his own product and applicators on hand when the weather is a go. He has stories—comical now—on the hoops he once jumped through to get same-day service.

“The whole system needs disruption,” he says. “There’s too many layers that don’t add value, and everybody in the process wants to add a commission to it. And it’s not necessarily good service.”

If farmers are ready to disrupt the status quo and take charge of their margins and logistics, Ben recommends checking out ADM Farm Direct Fertilizer.

“If you like to be in control of your production system and save money, you’d enjoy it,” he says. “If you’re lazy and want to spend a lot of money, stick with what you got!”

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